New Jersey Criminal Defense Attorney Blog Covering New Jersey and Federal Criminal Law and Procedure

18-Year Old Live-Streams Friend’s Rape – and is Charged as a Sex Offender

Prior articles on this blog have discussed our increasing dependency on our electronic devices.  Many members of my generation are still getting somewhat used to smart phones, I-pads, and the like.  However, for our children who have grown up with them, using these devices is perfectly natural and an ordinary part of life.  These things are all second-nature to them.  The younger generation will never understand our take on these devices because they did not grow up in a time when a Princess slim-line rotary telephone (remember those?) was cutting-edge technology.

While they seem to be thoroughly in tune with the latest technological rages and crazes, our kids do not necessarily appreciate the darker side of modern technology which, in addition to all kinds of devices, includes a bewildering array of apps and social media products and services.  Last week, an 18-year-old Ohio woman learned the hard way that misuse of this technology can have dire consequences.

Marina Alexeevna Lonina (age 18) and an acquaintance identified as Raymond Boyd Gates (age 29) have been charged in connection with the rape of one of Lonina’s classmates.  Lonina and the victim, who was 17 at the time of the incident, attended the same high school outside Columbus.  Lonina, Gates, and the victim were socializing at a Columbus residence when, at some point, Gates allegedly forced the victim to have sex with him.  Lonina “Periscoped” (live-streamed in real time) the rape.  One of Lonina’s friends, who was located in another State, viewed the live-stream of the rape and contacted law enforcement.  During the evening preceding the sexual assault, Lonina had also photographed the victim in the nude.  A Franklin County grand jury indicted Lonina and Gates for kidnapping, rape, sexual battery, and pandering sexually oriented material involving a minor.  Lonina was also charged with illegal use of a minor in nude material or performance, which related to photographing the victim the night preceding the rape.  These latter two charges appear to be variations of distributing child pornography.  Each defendant now faces over 40 years in prison.

Thus far, Lonina, through her attorney, has argued that she live-streamed the rape hoping that this would somehow stop it, or that her actions would preserve evidence of a crime.  However, prosecutors who have viewed the live-stream have noted that she could be heard giggling and laughing during the streaming.  The victim was also apparently heard screaming “stop” don’t” and “please”.  What is even more interesting, however, is the number of “likes” the streaming garnered.  Prosecutors have suggested that Lonina became caught up in the positive on-line feedback that her streaming was generating.  It has been further asserted that Gates, who is more than 10 years older than Lonina and the victim, supplied the two girls with alcohol, and otherwise influenced their conduct to the point where events spun out of control.  As of now, Lonina is out on bail while Gates remains in jail.

Periscope, introduced last Spring, is owned by Twitter.  Available statistics indicate that it has now been used for over 100,000,000 broadcasts.  The app has guidelines that ban explicitly graphic content, but users apparently remain free to stream whatever they wish.  Various media outlets sought input from Twitter and Periscope, but their representatives refused to comment.

Live media is the latest rage.  Products and services include not only Periscope, but also Facebook Live, YouNow and Veetle.  These services all allow viewers to notify the streamer of their reactions almost in real time.  In fact, this “sharing” of the stream and viewer reactions seems to be a centerpiece of these apps.  Apparently, the same issues do not exist with still photos.  Automated algorithms can flag still images containing inappropriate content, making them harder to transmit and share.  Streamed videos are more difficult to flag in this manner.

In any event, Lonina’s story is an extreme example of how questionable use of social media technology can lead to criminal charges.  Even if she does not serve time in custody, she will undoubtedly be a convicted sex offender when her case ends.  As such, she will be under some form of community supervision, with restrictions placed on who she can associated with, and where she can live, work and attend school.

James S. Friedman, LLC closely monitors technological developments that impact upon criminal law and criminal procedure.  If you or someone you know has been charged with a criminal offense involving electronic devices, social media, apps, or the Internet, contact us immediately for cutting-edge representation.